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Morning, noon, nighttime and in between, our region supplies plenty of fun for everyone.
Summer. It’s one of the best things about Earth. During these roughly 90 days, our planetary rotation and alignment make for days that last and last. The nights are warm and welcoming. Nobody succumbs to hypothermia, ever. The flowers are blooming. Cool water is refreshing. Adult beverages are also refreshing. In short, it’s just a fantastic time to be a living, breathing human in this fair conglomeration of cities we call home.
There’s just so much to do. Seriously, it’s a little mind-boggling. So we’ll break it down by the time of day, because Sacramento Summer has a rhythm all its own.
Are you an early riser? Yeah, me neither, but I’ve heard of these people. And they have a big advantage. Summer mornings are a tremendous time to enjoy the great outdoors before it gets so ridiculously hot that you need a hand fan and a Southern accent to cool off. So here are some ideas for making the most of a glorious Sacramento summer morning. Be forewarned: Some require exertion, so if you prefer to sleep in, put on the AC and come back to this article when you’re ready for brunch. Or lunch.
Conduct commerce with a local farmer.
The Sacramento region contains about 1.5 million acres of farmland and 8,000 acres of boutique farms. In the summertime, they kick into high gear, delivering a huge variety of produce at its biggest and bestest. Take advantage of this freshness boon—and support local growers.
The Sacramento region has more than 40 farmers markets. Some, like the ones in Folsom, midtown and downtown, are open year-round. Others, such as the ones at Cesar Chavez Park and Oak Park, open in midspring and close in midfall. But during the summer, they’re all open for business, and it’s boom, boom, booming.
Of course, you’ll find much more than fruits and vegetables. You’ll likely also come across goodies like artisanal cheeses and honeys, baked goods, herbs, flowers, locally ranched meats and locally caught fish. Some, like the Oak Park Farmers Market, even feature live music or kids’ activities like storytelling, face painting or art making.
If you’ve just never made it out to a farmers market but have been meaning to try it, here’s the scoop. Most are open from around 8 a.m. to noon one day a week, but you can also find some with alternative hours. (West Sacramento Farmers Market at The Barn is open second Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m.) If you’re able to make it out only on the weekend, Saturday has the most options, but the market under the freeway at Eighth and W is open Sunday. If you are able to do your shopping midweek, you’ll probably find more options closer to home. You can find a complete listing of market hours and locations at farmtofork.com.
Pro tip: If you want the best of anything, show up early. If you want to score a bargain, show up late when they’re trying to close up and get rid of as much stuff as possible.
Go get coffee and a doughnut.
Sometimes all you really need to start the day is a dose of caffeine and glucose. Who are we to judge?
The most important coffee is the coffee you drink every day. That’s what they say at Coffee Works (3418 Folsom Blvd.), the oldest roaster in town, in the same spot they started at in 1982. They’re selective about their sources. They sell only coffees they have specified, purchased and roasted themselves. Real good joe. Check out the cold brewed coffee that comes out of the refurbished beer tap. coffeeworks.com
Here’s a trivia question for you. What’s boxy, yellow, green and full of doughnuts? If you answered Marie’s Donuts (2950 Freeport Blvd.), you don’t really need this tip, but it’s open Monday through Saturday from 1 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 a.m. to 3 p.m. Its chocolate glazed doughnuts are legendary, as are its apple fritters.
You might also check out Manley Donuts (360 Florin Road). Its maple bars and bear claws are the bomb, but the place is cash only, so bring your billfold. City Donuts (1001 Jefferson Blvd.) in West Sacramento excels at the classics. Order a bear claw, buttermilk or old fashioned. You will be pleased.
Java Time Donuts (7811 Laguna Blvd.) in Elk Grove has some of the best cream puffs in the universe.
Go for a jog in McKinley Park. Or Capital Park. We've got lots of parks.
OK, if all you care about is working off last night’s carbo load, aesthetics may not be your primary concern. However, if you want your morning jog to be infused with the scent of roses and a variegated explosion of primary colors, take a few laps at McKinley Park. Boasting 1,200 blushing bushes, the rose garden at the corner of 33rd and H is just a lovely sight to see with the rising of the sun. If you happen to be going there on Saturday 9 o’clockish, bring a yoga mat for a free session in the park. They say it’s an all-levels class and everyone is welcome. (I went once. I definitely felt welcomed but was also sore for a week, so I question the whole “all-levels” thing.)
And if you happen to be closer to the Capitol than East Sac, by all means go there. They don’t have yoga, but wow, what an amazing park. It’s funny how easy it is to overlook some of the greatest things around you. Capitol Park is right there in the middle of it all. It’s got tons of flowers, trees and memorials. (And squirrels. They pretty much own the place.) My wife once told me that Capitol Park features every tree indigenous to California. She wasn’t quite right, but it does cover 40 acres and contain species of plant life from nearly every part of the globe. If the last time you spent in the Capitol Park was when you first moved here and had family visiting from out of town, do yourself a favor and go back to check it out. Come for the trees and stay long enough to see Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial portrait from 1975 inside the Capitol building. It was described at the time as “spilled ketchup and soy sauce.” That seems a bit harsh, but it is definitely a standout among the rest.
Midtown Farmers Market
Go take a hike.
It’s one of life’s simplest pleasures. Watch your perspective shift as you move one foot at a time. We Sacramentans are lucky to have great hiking and biking destinations that don’t require a drive to Timbuktu. But during the summer, you do want to get an early start. Here are some family-friendly options in easy reach.
Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail
Also known as the American River Bike Trail, it runs 32 miles along the American River, connecting a string of public spaces including Sutter’s Landing Park, Paradise Beach, William B. Pond Recreation Area, River Bend Park (formerly Goethe Park) and all the way up to Beals Point at Folsom Lake. Each spot has its own highlights, from the salmon ladders at Nimbus Fish Hatchery to the archery range at Discovery Park and the creature comforts of Old Sacramento.
The Jedediah Smith is one of the longest paved trails in the country. If you’re on a bike, you can ride just long enough to justify a destination reward. But the trail has plenty of room for everyone. Families and couples abound on both wheels and sneakers. So pack a lunch and hit the trail. To find the park nearest you, visit www.regionalparks.saccounty.net. (You actually need to type the “www.”)
Quarry Road Trail
Hike history itself. Quarry Trail in Auburn State Recreation Area is an easy stroll along the picturesque American River where the Portland Cement Railroad once supported the mining industry. The trail is paved, so it’s not just bicycle-, dog- and horse-friendly, but also stroller and wheelchair accessible up to a point. A little over a mile in, the trail splits. To your left, there’s a rest area with picnic tables and reasonably clean portable potties. To your right, there’s an uphill trail that leads to unique sights nearby. You’ll go past a cave that once contained fossilized megafauna and was later used by miners. Today, it features a metal gate that lets bats through but not humans. The main attraction, just Σ mile past the cave, is a stunning cathedral of sheer limestone where climbers sometimes tempt fate on the weekends.
For hikers who want the extended version, there’s a lovely hidden pool and waterfall about 5 miles farther along one of the trails. For details, Google “Quarry Road Trail to American Canyon Falls.” (Bear in mind waterfalls lose potency as the summer wears on.)
Quarry Road Trail is just a 10-minute drive southeast of Auburn on Highway 49. As you drive up the mountain, you will see free parking on the right side of the road. Or you can go 1/4 mile farther up to the paid trailhead parking area.
Sly Park’s Jenkinson Lake Loop Trail
When Sacramentans need their national forest fix, Pollock Pines (right off of Highway 50 past Placerville) provides some of the closest. There you’ll find Jenkinson Lake with a loop trail that is shaded for the most part. For an easy hike with a quick payoff, start at Sly Park Recreation Area. From the trailhead at Hazel Creek footbridge, it’s just a mile to the Park Creek waterfall. The trail can be visited on horseback, mountain bike, on foot or with dog.
The full route, if you go all the way around the lake, is 9 miles of relative flatness punctuated by steeps and climbs. If 9 miles of walking sounds tedious to you, skip it and plop in. Swimming, fishing, boating, water skiing and paddle sports are fun, too.
Take Highway 50 to the Sly Park Road exit. You can enter at the main gate and support the park with a $12 day-use fee, or you can drive farther down to a free parking area by Mormon Emigrant trail, which tends to fill up quickly.
See wild animals while they're awake.
Some animal lovers have mixed feeling about zoos. But seeing animals from faraway places is fun. It stirs the imagination. It promotes conversation. Kids love it. And the very best time to go to Sacramento Zoo (3930 W. Land Park Drive) is first thing in the morning when the critters are waking up. If you wait until the heat of midday, you’ll see a lot of napping and nothing. So get up early and go hang with the coolest vertebrates when they’re active. Check out the new viewing deck where you can meet giraffes eye to eye. And the big-cat exhibits are always a crowd pleaser. And while you’re in the neighborhood...
The zoo is right across from Fairytale Town. For more than 50 years, Fairytale Town has offered children and families a place to imagine, play and learn with 25 play sets based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales. There are puppet shows and farm animals.
Oh, do you have residual energy? Did you notice you’re also right there at William Land Park? It has ducks. Other things, too. The nine-hole golf course is one of the best ways to spend a few summer hours without children. But if you’ve got children, you’re gonna really like the ducks. There are also jogging paths, picnic areas, barbecues and lakes. You could pretty much spend all day here and make your children (or your inner child) happy without having to change your parking spot.
Hunt for trinkets.
Turn your phone into a treasure map and your hike into a hunt. Before Pokemon Go, there was geocaching, a GPS-enabled system for hiding and sharing keepsakes in public places around the world. Don’t expect to find pots of gold. A typical cache contains a logbook and trinkets of sentimental value only. Some “geocoins” are designated hitchhikers whose globetrotting is tracked online. Fans say it’s an exciting way to get out and explore. There are both free and paid apps to get you on your way. The easiest intro is at geocaching.com.
The Jungle Bird
When summer heat is at its most oppressive (or “impressive,” depending on your personal take), there are two ways to deal with it. Get out on the water or find indoor escapes with good air conditioning. Here are some options for both.
Get on a boat.
Andy Samberg was right. Everything is better on a boat. But how much boat experience do you have? You might think that to pilot a vessel, you need a special license. Nope. All you really need is a face (proven with a photo ID), money and a set of car keys as collateral. That being said, if you’ve never piloted a boat before, maybe start with something easy on a body of water with no current.
At Folsom Lake Marina, you can rent a pontoon boat that will accommodate up to 10 people for $300 on the weekends and $250 on weekdays. It’s a fantastic way to spend the day. Bring a cooler and revel in your floating majesty. folsomlakerentals.com
You can also scale down and get yourself a smaller human-powered watercraft. The snack bars at Beals Point and Granite Bay rent kayaks and rafts. If you want something with a little more oomph, you must be at least 27 years old to rent a powerboat fitted with 40 horsepower or more.
Of course, water safety is not to be taken lightly and activities are often more fun when you’re confident you know what you’re doing. Sacramento State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma offers a variety of classes. Take a six-hour personal watercraft class or attend a five-day camp. A nine-hour powerboating class will teach you basic safety and operations such as anchoring, landing and docking. There’s even a clinic for maneuvering one of those trailers on the boat ramp. That’s always looked pretty tricky to me. sacstateaquaticcenter.com
Once you’ve got your sea legs, take your boating experience to the next level out on the river. A number of venues through out the delta are boat-friendly. Tie up at the dock and enjoy.
The Virgin Sturgeon (1577 Garden Highway) is a floating dive bar, a great spot for brunch or just sipping drinks on the dock while watching the rivergoers float by. If you happen to arrive by land, be forewarned: You will enter through a long tunnel that once served as a jetway for Pan American airline and that, depending on river level, is usually steep enough to deliver mild vertigo.
Swabbies on the River (5871 Garden Highway) features an event calendar that’s jam packed. Fish Taco Friday is a good time to try their flagship product. Saturdays and Sundays often feature live bands. (Sometimes there’s a cover charge, so call ahead.) swabbies.com
At Alamar Marina (5999 Garden Highway), you can refuel literally and figuratively. The restaurant there is called Rock’n Dock. Pull right up and enjoy the full bar, friendly staff and calming atmosphere. The food is fresh but the hours are limited. It’s closed Monday through Wednesday. rockn-dock.hub.biz
Keep cool on land.
It used to be that when you wanted to beat the heat, you went to the movies. That is still a fine idea, but there are so many more interesting alternatives.
At iFly Indoor Skydiving (118 Harding Blvd., Roseville), you can enjoy the thrill of free fall without the risk of actually plummeting toward Earth. You’re basically in a wind tunnel pointed up, so you benefit from both flight and a very potent breeze. If you have someone in your life who’s physically challenged, they might enjoy All-Abilities Night, when anyone can fly, regardless of disability or limitation. iflyworld.com
Relax With a Tiki Slushy
The Jungle Bird is a relative newcomer to J Street. (It’s where Kru used to be.) One of the requirements of being an authentic tiki bar is offering exotic mainstays such as the mai tai and daiquiri. But here, the real deal comes in the form of large cocktails served in large bowls with many straws for many people. Feeling adventurous? The Three Hour Tour is a $100 beverage (available only for parties of six or more) served in a big swan (not an actual bird). But if you really just want to get your chill on, you must try the slushy bar. The Frozen Painkiller at the top of the list features Pusser’s Navy Rum, pineapple coconut cream, orange juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Just don’t drink it too fast. Oh, and FYI, they don’t open until 4 p.m. on weekdays, but brunch service starts at 10 a.m. on the weekends.
Unleash Your Inner Speed Demon
K1 Speed (3130 Bradshaw Road) delivers all-electric indoor go-kart racing, and it’s fun as heck. When you’re not engaged in racing, you can watch live from the snack bar. Each kart has a 20-horsepower electric motor that reaches speeds up to 45 miles per hour. K1speed.com
Rediscover a foreign culture.
In a nation of immigrants, Sacramento tops the list of America’s most integrated cities. So it’s no surprise we host a ton of cultural festivals, many of them in the summer. Mark your calendar and see the world without leaving your hometown.
George Na’ope Hula Festival, July 14–16
Hula is part prayer, part dance and part sign language in which hand movements can signify anything from the swaying of a tree to the yearning of the heart. This dance festival features men’s and women’s teams performing a variety of hula forms in colorful and traditional costumes. It’s at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza. kanehulafestival.com
Japanese Food and Cultural Bazaar, Aug. 12–13
Now in its 71st year, this annual event invites you to experience a rich variety of Japanese cuisines and traditions, from the contemplative tea ceremony to the raw energy of Taiko drumming. It’s at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento on the corner of Riverside Boulevard and X Street. buddhistchurch.com/events/bazaar.htm
Festa Italiana, Aug. 6–7
Attracting thousands of visitors each year, Festa Italiana is one of Sacramento’s largest ethnic festivals. Bring the whole family and spend the day enjoying live entertainment, wine tasting, a variety of regional cuisines, a marketplace of Italian goods and an activity area where families can enjoy free craft tables, face painting, bocce and more. There is an admission fee, but look for coupons on the website. It takes place at Croatian Park at 3730 Auburn Blvd. festaitalianasac.com
Scandinavian Festival, Aug.19
Come for the Swedish pancakes and Danish danishes. Stay for the traditional dances, costumes and crafts showcasing the diversity of Scandinavian nations. At Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 6151 H St. facebook.com/SacramentoScandinavianFestival
Brazilian Day Sacramento Street Festival | Aug. 27
From the people who brought you capoeira, jiu jitsu and the samba, this free annual event brings Brazilian traditions to life. Enjoy live music, folk art and generous samplings of the country’s rich cuisine. There are even opportunities to learn dance moves, and there’s a kids’ parade where youngsters can put on moves of their own. 20th Street between J and K. braziliandaysacfest.com
Concerts in the Park
As the sun sets, the mood changes. The air cools. And the nightlife is just getting started. How will you begin?
Sip cocktails at sunset.
Oh, Old Sacramento. You may be a tourist trap with lousy parking, and yet we can’t help but adore you. Parts, anyway. Climbing aboard the Delta King and sipping a beverage while the sun sets over the Ziggurat is simply a classic. It’s one of the summer’s simple pleasures I always look forward to. It’s even worth driving over cobblestones and walking the gauntlet of kids hawking taffy. deltaking.com
Enjoy free movies and music.
There’s something liberating about summer nights. You don’t have to bundle up. You just go. If there’s a free movie or a concert in the park, all you really need is a blanket or maybe a folding chair, which is nice. Perhaps it is for this reason that various institutions sponsor totally free events in parks throughout the summer. What’s not to like about that? You like entertainment? You like free stuff? We do, too. It’s two great tastes that taste great together. So mark your calendar for these events in your vicinity.
Singles Pro Tip: Pack a cooler full of wine, sandwiches and antipasto from Corti Brothers and make it a date.
Parents Pro Tip: Same thing.
Concerts in the Park
It’s Sacramento’s largest outdoor happy hour. This perennial goodie runs every Friday from May through July 21, so by the time you’re reading this, you’ve already missed a good chunk of it. But don’t let that stop you. Roughly 500 bands have rocked the Cesar Chavez Park stage over the past 25 years, showcasing local talents like Cake, Tesla, Deftones, The Brodys and Blackalicious. So park your bike (there’s free valet bike parking), grab a beer and dig the end of the workweek with choice tunes. If you haven’t heard of the bands, you might be down with the food trucks, which include Azteca Street Tacos, Bacon Mania, Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen, Annie’s Sno Biz and Yolanda’s Tamales. Fridays, May 5–July 21, from 5 to 9 p.m., Ninth and J streets. See godowntownsac.com for deets.
Concerts and Movies in Fair Oaks
Every Thursday from June to August, Village Park in Fair Oaks features local musicians who perform in flavors from blues to zydeco. But wait, there’s more. On the third Friday of July and August, you can also catch a free family-friendly movie accompanied by The W.O.W. (Wonderful Outdoor World) Bus, delivering kid-pleasing activities like flag football, parachute games, dodge ball, sidewalk chalk and crafts. There will be nachos, popcorn, ice cream and soda. Seriously. fairoakspark.org
Roseville Movies in the Park
Hop from park to park for free family-friendly movie screenings in various Roseville parks throughout the season. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets and come for dinner at 7:30 p.m. There will be vendors, if you prefer the whole convenience thing. Expect pizza, popcorn and snow cones. Don’t miss the raffle. Unexpected temptation: Bring your own shirt to tie-dye for $3. rcona.org
Concerts on the Square (also in Roseville)
Come on down to the Vernon Street Town Square. Enjoy food-truck grub and visit the beer garden. It’s free. The show, not the beer. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.; concerts start at 7:30 p.m. No coolers, outside alcohol, smoking, glass or llamas permitted.
July 15: 80z All-Stars
Aug. 19: Skid Roses
Sept. 16: Bubba and the Boys
Screen on the Green in South Natomas and River Park
Bring the kids to the park for free popcorn and a screening of “The LEGO Batman Movie” on Aug. 4 and 5 at Glenn Hall Park and South Natomas Community Park respectively. Movie starts at 8:15 p.m. sacscreenonthegreen.com
Movies in Rocklin
Bring your blankets and low-profile chairs and enjoy a free movie under the stars in your nearby parks. Get there around 7 p.m. to get good seats. The movie will begin around 9.
July 7: “Finding Dory” at Johnson-Springview Park, 5480 Fifth St.
Aug. 4: “The LEGO Batman Movie” at Twin Oaks Park, 5500 Park Drive
Attend an event that's not free, but it's probably pretty cool and raises money for people who need it:
Tour de Fat @ Ace of Spades, July 11
For the past few years, New Belgium Brewing Company—the folks who bring you Fat Tire—have been producing the Clips Beer and Film Tour across the country and arriving at Southside Park. Our take was that the beer and atmosphere were fantastic, but the films were meh. This year, they’re taking a new tack with a traveling philanthropic beer, music and bike festival. Ready your eyes and ears for a mix of musicians, circus performers, vaudeville acts, magicians, comedians and provocateurs. Costumes are encouraged. Proceeds go to local nonprofits. Tickets are about $25, depending on when you buy them. This summer, Tour de Fat hopes to generate more than $600,000 in support of local causes. newbelgium.com
Just because the sky is dark doesn't mean it's bedtime.
See a fire dance in the dark moonlight.
The Fire Spectacular is literally Sacramento’s hottest festival of the year. It began in 2008 with an art grant from the Sacramento Municipal Arts Commission. The idea was to bridge fire performance, art, music and poetic narration to tell a story through move-ment. Now in its 10th year, the experience features an epic display of circus arts, fire dance, interesting oddities and enthusiastic feats. General admission is $15 per adult, kids 8 and younger are free, and there’s a family rate of $35 for two adults with two children. The show takes place in the amphitheater at Land Park on Aug. 12. sacredfiredance.com
Shoot for the Stars.
There’s something uniquely satisfying about observing a meteor streaming across the night sky. It happens so fast you can’t point it out. Either you see it or you don’t. From July 17 to Aug. 24, Earth will pass through the path of a comet raining fiery streaks across the ether in record numbers. This event is otherwise known as the Perseid meteor shower. We’ll be flying through the densest, dustiest area on Aug. 12, when you’ll see the most meteors in the shortest amount of time. Of course, the best way to see the stars is far away from the bright lights of the big city, so consider planning your annual camping trip to coincide with this unique event. This year, the Perseids will be a little more difficult to see due to the presence of the moon, which will be three-quarters full and will rise shortly before the shower hits its peak around midnight, but don’t let that stop you. Shooting stars are awesome.
Close out for the night.
There are a great many fine establishments to wrap up a day of festivities. Pre Flite Lounge (1011 10th St.) is one of the oldest and most unassuming. It opened in 1972 on L Street, where customers could enjoy a beverage while they waited for their shuttle to Sacramento Airport. The shuttle service ended long ago, and in 2014, the bar was forced to close to make way for the new arena. Today, it has relocated to the alley behind Crest Theatre. There’s not really a sign out front. It’s easy to miss. But after you have dinner on K Street and see a movie at the Crest, shuffle down to Pre Flite, order a martini and observe the bartender accomplish a feat of physics by filling the glass beyond capacity without spilling. preflitelounge.com